From Bias to Balance: A Complete Guide to Unbiased Objective Hiring

Drew Whitehurst | August 9, 2023

“Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions and a healthy dose of curiosity.” – Richard Branson

The success of any organization depends on your hiring decisions. When you hire the right candidate, they bring passion, innovation, and forward momentum to an organization. So, what’s one of the biggest barriers to hiring top talent? Biased hiring.

Biased hiring is often caused by recruiter bias or hiring due to ‘vibes’ or emotions. The antidote to biased hiring is structured hiring – hiring with consistent interview questions and rubrics.

interviewstream has made it a mission to improve the hiring processes of our clients. We aim to create efficiencies in the recruitment process and help clients hire their top candidates.

Below is our guide to understanding and eliminating interview bias. By addressing these biases, you can ensure an objective evaluation of candidates and make the best hires for your open positions.


What is Interview Bias: Understanding Interview Bias

Interview bias refers to the tendency of interviewers or hiring managers to make judgments about candidates that are irrelevant to job-related criteria. This bias stems from our emotions, which can cloud judgment and lead to inaccurate evaluations. To promote fairness in the interview process, it is crucial to identify and address these biases.

Let’s take a look at a few types of interview biases and examples of how those might play out in the hiring process, and how to overcome these biases.


Avoiding First Impression Interviewer Bias

One of the most prevalent biases is first impression interviewer bias. This is when interviewers form judgments about candidates within the first few moments of meeting them. These judgments are often based on superficial factors such as appearance, age, gender, race, religion, and non-verbal cues.

When weeding out bias, focus on the candidate’s ability to perform the job above other characteristics. The above factors (age, appearance, etc) are not indicative of a candidate’s ability to perform the job.

Some examples of first impression interview bias are:

  • Forming a judgment based on someone’s appearance
  • Judging a candidate due to nervousness during the interview
  • Forming an opinion from a weak handshake upon the first in-person meeting.

These biases impact the evaluation process and hinder the selection of the most qualified candidates.


Maintaining Objectivity in Interviewing: Avoiding Contrast Bias

Another type of bias that can distort evaluations is contrast bias. This bias occurs when interviewers enhance or diminish their assessment of a candidate based on a comparison to another candidate.

For instance, if an interviewer interviews an unqualified candidate first, later candidates may appear more qualified in comparison. But, they might not be the best fit for the position. Evaluating candidates based on their merits, not comparison to others, helps you avoid contrast bias. Some recruiters find it helpful to have a rubric while interviewing candidates.

One way recruiters reduce contrast bias is through on demand video interviews. interviewstream users can rate candidates while looking at a candidate rubric. This makes it easier to fairly evaluate applicants.


Increasing Objective Hiring: Similar-to-Me Bias

Similar-to-me bias, also known as the looking glass effect, happens when interviewers unconsciously favor candidates who possess traits, interests, or characteristics similar to their own.

This bias can show up when interviewers find a candidate relatable due to, for example, attending similar schools, shared interests, etc. Hiring candidates that share the same characteristics impact an organization’s diversity level. And organizations with more diversity, coupled with objective and job success related hiring practices, tend to perform better.


How to Avoid the Halo Effect Bias

The halo effect bias occurs when a favorable trait overshadows all other aspects of a candidate’s profile. For example, a candidate with a particularly strong professional demeanor might appear more qualified than another candidate. However, the second candidate has skills and competencies that align more closely with the job requirements.

It is important to avoid overemphasizing a single trait and to rate candidates based on their skills and competencies.


How to Avoid Horn Effect Bias

The horn effect bias occurs when a single perceived negative trait overshadows a candidate’s other qualities.

For example, an interviewer may hold a negative bias towards graduates from a particular school. It is important to evaluate candidates holistically and not let biases cloud the judgment of their suitability for the job.


Strategies to Mitigate Bias and Promote Hiring Objectivity

Recognizing and addressing hiring bias allows you to create a fair and objective hiring process. To combat bias, use the following strategies:

  • Be Aware of Bias: The first step in overcoming bias is recognizing its existence and understanding the various biases. By being aware of our own potential biases, we can work towards mitigating them.
  • Relying on Behavioral-Based Interviewing: Use behavioral-based interviewing questions to gain deeper insights into your candidate. These questions are also called situational interview questions. The questions are story-based and seek to understand how skills in their previous roles will translate to your open position. These questions focus on the candidate’s ability to succeed in the role and cut opportunities for bias.
  • Use A Structured Interview Process: Using a consistent interview process helps maintain objectivity in the evaluation process. We recommend using on demand or one way interviews to replace the traditional screening step in the hiring process. Video screening interviews allow every candidate to take the exact same first-round interview. Candidates are presented with the same pre-interview instructions, asked the same questions, and evaluated on the same scale across all reviewers.
  • Focus on Job-Related Evaluation Criteria: Rate candidates based on their competencies, experience, and alignment with the job requirements. By focusing on these factors, interviewers can make more objective decisions. Using interviewstream’s custom rating feature allows hiring managers to set up evaluation metrics based on the candidate’s ability to perform the job. All evaluators then base their candidate ratings on the same criteria. These consistent metrics are available for both on demand and live interviews to make sure candidates are evaluated consistently through multiple rounds of interviews.


Take Steps to Reduce Bias with interviewstream

Interview bias is a significant challenge that organizations face when conducting hiring processes. By acknowledging its existence and understanding the various types of bias, you can reduce your bias.

Through increased awareness, the use of behavioral-based interviewing, a structured interview processes, and a focus on job-related evaluation criteria, organizations can create a fair and objective evaluation process that ensures not only the selection of the best-suited candidates, but also the success of their organization. Fill out this form for more information on how we can help you reduce bias.

About The Author

Drew Whitehurst is the Director of Marketing at interviewstream. He's been with the company since 2014 working in client services and marketing. He is an analytical thinker, coffee enthusiast, and hobbyist at heart.


interviewstream is dedicated to the success of more than 900 clients from K-12 school districts, emerging businesses, midsize companies, large enterprises, colleges, and universities.

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